Seattle elected officials announced a $1 million legal defense fund to protect immigrants and refugees targeted by the federal government.
The fund will support Seattle residents and workers who would otherwise have difficulty affording representation and who face civil proceedings in immigration court. The money will be released as a grant to community-based organizations that apply to hire immigration attorneys, legal staff and navigators to help immigrants facing trial.
According to a release from City Hall, people in immigration proceedings do not have the right to an attorney, and 35 percent of people who appear before the Seattle immigration court don’t have representation. At Tacoma Immigration Court, which handles cases from the Northwest Detention Center, an Immigration and Customs Enforcement facility, 92 percent of people don’t have representation.
“With this Legal Defense Fund, we stand hand-in-hand with our immigrant and refugee communities as they fight to remain with their families and in their homes,” said Councilmember Lorena González. “Each of our friends, neighbors and family members who go to immigration court deserve to be accompanied by someone who understands their case.”
The fund is part of a wider effort to cement Seattle’s status as a “welcoming city” where immigrants with and without documentation can feel safe. That means that the city will not help federal agencies with immigration proceedings.